Posted June 6, 2011
Top Interview Secret: Know the Right Questions To Ask
By Deborah Walker, Career Coach
Most interview preparation books are filled with sample questions that you'll have to answer during an interview. While it's certainly important to know how to answer tough interview questions, it's equally important to know how to ASK questions in an interview. There are three good reasons to be prepared to ask great questions during interviews.
  • To uncover the interviewer's hiring motives.
  • To demonstrate your interest and intelligence.
  • To uncover any unspoken concerns or red flags.
Let's look at each of these points:

1. To uncover the interviewer's hiring motives.

A big mistake candidates make going into a job interview is to assume that they know the hiring motives of the interviewer based solely on the job description. But the reality is that each person within an organization will have a slightly different idea of the perfect person for the job.
It's up to you to find out the hiring motives of each person you interview within any one organization. Ask a simple question and you'll know what your interviewer is looking for. Such as:
  • What do you see as the most significant challenges for this position? What qualities do you look for to fill this position?
Then just listen closely. He/She will tell you just what you need to know in order to tailor your answers to his/her desires.

2. To demonstrate your interest and intelligence.

Nothing works better than a well thought out question to convince your interviewer of the sincerity and interest. Additionally, a good question is the simplest, yet most effective way of impressing them with your intelligence.
The main thing is that you want your question(s) to be specific to the organization you are interviewing with. Avoid generic questions such as "Where do you see your company going in five years?" The interviewer is going to realize you just asked the last five companies that same question. A more targeted and specific question will win you points in the interview, and may tip the scale in your favor when they're discussing which candidate to hire.

3. To uncover any unspoken concerns or "red flags".

Before you walk out of your interview, find out any concerns that may eliminate you as a candidate. This is your best chance to defend your candidacy. This is also your second chance to undo an interview error, or provide vital information. Ask a question something like:
"What concerns do you have that would prevent you from calling me back for the next interview?"
Spoken concerns can be answered with new information on how you've overcome challenges, learned new skills, or adjusted to new industries quickly. Remember, if you don't ask, they will not tell you, and you'll always wonder why they didn't call you back.
When it comes to interviews, there is no such thing as over preparation. A resume will get your foot in the door, but the interview will seal the deal. Make sure you're ready to win the job by asking the right interview questions.
Deborah Walker, Certified Career Management Coach, Read more career tips and see sample resumes at: Email: [email protected].

Posted Nov 20, 2010
The Perfect Job?Is The Perfect?Gift This Holiday Season
By Dave?Bontempo, for the Bulletin
'Tis the season of Santas and snowflakes, mistletoe and holly, twinkling lights and presents under the tree. The world is in full holiday mode, with seasonal finery making it almost impossible to think of anything else, which is precisely what frequently happens to those in the market for a new job, especially during the jam-packed month of December.
With the annual assault of the holiday season taking over the senses, as well as common sense, it's tempting to put a job search on hold. Applicants and candidates reason that the end of the calendar year, with all of its annual distractions, is a fruitless time to look for a new position. After all, they suppose, if I can't think of anything but the holidays, neither can hiring officials, right?
Wrong. For a number of reasons, the month of December can turn out to be prime time for job hunting, as those in charge of hiring look to tie up loose ends before the beginning of the new calendar year.
First, and perhaps most obvious, you should turn up the heat on your job search precisely because many others have put their efforts on the back burner. With mistaken notions about year end hiring firmly cemented in the minds of many job seekers, competition for openings is diminished. Fewer candidates actively looking equal more opportunities for you. As the number of applicants goes down, your chances go up.
Second, and rightly assumed, hiring officials are less busy and, so have more time to review resumes, answer emails and interview. While job seekers correctly acknowledge that the holiday season and end of the year mean that things slow down for many businesses, it's wrong to assume that hiring officials are simply sitting at their desks with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. Applicants should take full advantage of the slow down by pumping up the volume and directly contacting hiring officials with resumes, emails and requests for interviews.
While the end of the year signals a review period for most businesses, the month of December still counts. Departments don't cease functioning and even those with definitive year end projects don't call it a year until the month is over. If you're seeking a position in the financial field, be aware that financial managers don't handle year end numbers or close the books on the previous year until January. Consequently, hiring officials in those industries are not yet in a year-end numbers crunch and also have time available for meeting quality candidates for open positions.
Similarly, many sales managers have put away their suitcases for the year and are through with business travel. As these hiring officials find themselves in one place - their offices - for the last few weeks in December, it's a good time to touch base and ask them of their plans for the new year - not the holiday, the business year - and to inquire if there might be a place in the game plan for someone with your experience.
The end of the year also brings interesting dilemmas to large companies with department budget dollars to spend. Monies not spent will likely not be figured into future budgets, so while cost savings throughout the year made sense in earlier calendar quarters, some department heads will want extra dollars spent to avoid budget cuts for the following fiscal budget. Why not take advantage of any surplus and see if a position for you might be available at the eleventh hour? A good hire and a fully expended budget equals a win for everyone concerned.
Many large companies also have department head counts they must maintain for a variety of reasons. Again, budgetary concerns are paramount and keeping a department fully staffed is imperative to avoid future budget cuts. Since workers leaving positions or transferring to new departments often do so at the end of a business year, opportunities become available for those seeking employment or looking to make a change. Many retiring employees also call it a career at years' end, leading to openings which can be filled during a holiday season with the position becoming operational in January.
Positions also open up with the beginning of each new educational semester as workers elect to return to school to add to their educations. While most frequently, students return to school in September at the beginning of the traditional school year, job seekers shouldn't ignore the fact that January brings with it a new university semester as well as new students, some of whom will be leaving jobs, opening those positions to new candidates.
Human Resource departments manage multiple concerns for their companies, not the least of which are employee health insurance and vacations. At many organizations, company policy dictates that a worker must be employed for six months to fully qualify for health insurance benefits and vacation pay. Many employers want to have new hires on board and locked into positions prior to the first day of the new year in order to allow those employees to meet company requirements to collect at the end of June - the end of the first six months of employment. Thus, the last weeks in December translate into prime hiring time.
Finally, many full time employees take time off during the holidays to attend to the trappings of the season. As a result, companies will frequently bring in temporary workers to pick up the slack. If you're looking for a full time opportunity, be certain you're registered with a quality temp service. Contact the staffing company daily and request assignments with top notch employers. A good temporary position could lead to a full time opportunity, especially if you can be flexible. Once you're in a temporary position at a company you like, be sure to express to management that you'd be happy to fill in at other departments as well. Getting as much exposure as possible at a quality corporation will always improve your chances of landing a full time position.
Although it's more than tempting to succumb to the spell cast by holiday magic, don't be fooled into easing up on your search for a meaningful new job during December. Opportunities abound at the end of the year and if you can concentrate on pursuing the possibilities, you may just end up with the best Christmas present of all-a new job to begin the New Year.
Dave Bontempo is owner of The Bontempo Group, an exchange partner with Professional Search of Atlanta. Contact the APICS Atlanta Career Center Director at [email protected].

Posted Nov 11, 2010
Recruiters Not Calling You?
Five Reasons Why  -  And How To Fix It
You've been hoping for a new job, but your phone is silent. No recruiters calling, no job offers; it's so quiet you can almost hear the crickets outside. Maybe it's time to reassess.
Does this sound like your job search efforts?
  • You've sent out hundreds of resumes to countless job postings but received little or no response.
  • You've left dozens of voicemails to recruiters explaining why you are a perfect fit - and they never return your call.
  • You've tweaked your resume so many times you no longer recognize it.
If this describes your situation, you are not alone. Many talented, qualified job seekers get ignored by recruiters and hiring managers simply because their resume has one or more of the following problems.
1. Your resume highlights your lack of industry experience
Most recruiters are looking for a point-by-point candidate match when screening resumes. Industry background usually ranks high on the list of qualifying issues. If you don't have experience in that industry, your resume is going straight to the circular file - unless you can give them a compelling reason to keep your resume in the stack.
If you lack specific industry experience, but you know you have the basic skills for the job, try highlighting your transferable skills instead. Job seekers who lack industry experience can make it past the resume screener by proving their ability with skills they have that transfer from industry to industry. Examples of transferable skills include expertise gained in sales, customer service, finance, accounting, negotiation, cross - functional communications, and/or team building. Look at the skills they need, then figure out how your background is a match.
2. Your resume shouts "Overqualified!"
Nothing scares off a recruiter faster than a candidate who is obviously overqualified for the job. The two main concerns are (1) that the candidate would soon get bored and leave at his earliest convenience, and (2) that the candidate would be too expensive to hire. Even worse is the assumption that the overqualified candidate is on a downward career slope - a has been with all his best years behind him.
There are, however, many valid reasons job seekers wish to downsize to jobs with fewer responsibilities. Whatever your reasons, tailor your resume to fit your current career objective. This means you'll want to play down your prior responsibilities, list only relevant education (don't list a PhD if you are applying for a mid-level management position!), and emphasize tactical experience over strategic planning when appropriate.
3. Your resume is crammed with information, but not the right kind
Pity the poor recruiter who must get through 200 applicant resumes before lunchtime. If your resume is in the pile, it will get a quick scan and pass over if she can't find what she is looking for in less than 30 seconds. If you have a resume that is disorganized or full of dense blocks of text, how will the recruiter learn anything about you?
You'll catch the recruiter's attention if you have a clear, easy-to-read resume that highlights your skills and accomplishments, even at a glance. The first rule of resume effectiveness is relevancy, so edit out the past data and redundant facts that aren't relevant to your current career path. Fill your resume only with the skills needed for that particular job, and you'll go a long way toward getting a recruiter's attention.
4. Your resume has too little information
While the "strong, silent type" may be attractive in men, it just plain flops in a resume. A resume that looks more like an outline just doesn't give the reader enough to work with. Recruiters don't want to guess what you did at your last job. You need to include enough information to give prospective employers a vision of the possibilities if they choose to hire you.
If you struggle with what to include in your resume, use job descriptions to help you understand what recruiters will want to find in your resume. Then review your previous jobs to determine what skills you have that will be a good match.
5. Your resume doesn't include accomplishments
If you haven't thought lately about how your employer has benefited from having you as an employee, it's a sure bet that your resume is lacking in accomplishments. Remember, as a job seeker you are selling your talents, and you are competing with many others who have the same qualifications as you do. Accomplishments give recruiters a reason to choose you over others for the interview short list.
Give screeners ample reason to select you for interview. Highlight how you have saved time, increased efficiency, cut cost and increased client satisfaction. After all, if you don't tell them, nobody else will!
If you use this five-point checklist to restructure your resume, you'll soon hear back from recruiters who appreciate qualified, articulate and confident candidates. The time you spend enhancing your resume could shave off months of fruitless labor and frustrating effort in your job search.
Deborah Walker, Certified Career Management Coach
Read more career tips and see sample resumes at:

Posted Aug 01, 2010
Finding The Sharpest Needle in the Haystack
The search for the best of the qualified persons to fill a job opening is a search for excellence. Hiring managers seek the best person to fill a position; a high - performance individual. "You are looking for the sharpest needle in the haystack," according to Jon Harvill, APICS Career Center Director and Managing Director of Professional Search. "Regrettably, the current haystack is three times its normal size due to the recent recession.
With a 9.5% jobless rate and some 15 million Americans looking for work, many employers are inundated with applicants. But a surprising number say they are getting an underwhelming response from qualified candidates, and many are having trouble filling open positions.
Longer - term trends are at play. For one, the U.S. education system hasn't been producing enough people with the highly specialized skills that many companies, particularly in manufacturing, require to keep driving productivity gains, many skills that may be associated with the C.P.M., CPIM, CSCP, CPSM, PMP and lean certifications may be missing. "There are a lot of people who are unemployed, but those aren't necessarily the people employers are looking for," says David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The difficulty finding workers limits the economy's ability to grow. It is particularly troubling at a time when 4.3% of the labor force has been out of work for more than six months, a level much higher than after any other recession since 1948.
Of course, some jobs remain easy to fill. Companies offering middle - skilled jobs can be flooded with applicants. Laquita Stribling, a senior area vice president in Nashville for staffing firm Randstad, was quoted in a recent WSJ article by Mark Whitehouse, saying she received several hundred applications for a branch manager job that might have attracted a few dozen candidates before the recession. "The talent pool has swollen to the point where it's almost overwhelming," says Ms. Stribling.
But other employers with lots of applicants say the pool of qualified workers is small for specialized jobs. Carolyn Henn, head of hiring at environmental consultancy Apex Companies, told the WSJ she recently received about 150 applications for an industrial hygienist job paying as much as $47,000 a year, which requires special certifications and expertise to oversee projects such as asbestos cleanups. That is about three times the amount she received for similar jobs before the recession. But she says the number of qualified applicants, about five, is less than she got before.
This experience was echoed by a recent hiring official who asked for help from Harvill's search firm. He reported that his HR department was overwhelmed when they received more than 200 applicants, all unqualified, in response to a recent Monster and APICS job postings. The hiring official's frustration was amplified when he was asked by HR to make a selection from the top ten percent of these applicants supplied, because he knew all of them were still unqualified, even the top ten percent.
Another hiring official asked his outside recruiter for professionally recruited candidates to add some depth to the pool of candidates supplied by their internal recruiter.   Many executive search firms do offer Contingency Search just for that very use, to allow the client to compare recruited candidates with their candidates from other sources. It cost them nothing to make the comparison and they only pay an agency fee if they judge the recruited candidate to be worth it.
It may be tremendously important for the hiring manager to find the truly sharpest needle, and it may not come from that haystack "High - performance hiring requires formidable standards of review and evaluation," Harvill advises. "You find the best people by setting the highest possible standards and refusing to compromise on quality.
From experience, Harvill knows that there's no easy way to find the perfect candidate in that huge haystack. He explains, "An alternative method is a familiar process which begins with obtaining dozens of personal referrals and continues through recruiting the qualified candidates and using a series of telephone and face - to - face interviews to screen and select down to the very best of those that are qualified."
On rare occasions, it may appear as though all that it takes to attract the high - performance candidate is to effectively communicate the challenges of a really dynamic job to the right individual. It may appear as simple as pulling that needle from the haystack with a magnet, the job and the candidate are pulled together as if by an unseen magnetic force. Harvill smiles and says, "Some may call it serendipity or even kismet but those who do it often just call it networking."
Jon Harvill CPC, APICS Atlanta Career Center Director, can be contacted at 770.952.0009
or visit his Professional Search of Atlanta's web site at